Measure for Measure

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Barnardine is a minor character in William Shakespeare's play Measure for Measure. Although he appears only briefly, his presence and actions have a significant impact on the plot and themes of the play. Barnardine is a prisoner who is sentenced to death by the strict and moralistic Angelo, who is temporarily in power in Vienna.

Barnardine is depicted as a hardened criminal who refuses to repent or show any remorse for his actions. He is known for his heavy drinking and unruly behavior, which has earned him a reputation as a troublemaker. Despite his imminent execution, Barnardine remains defiant and unyielding in his refusal to cooperate with the authorities.

Role in the Play

Barnardine's character serves as a contrast to the other characters in Measure for Measure. While many of the other individuals in the play are struggling with questions of morality and justice, Barnardine represents a complete lack of remorse or redemption. He embodies the darker aspects of human nature and challenges the notion of forgiveness and redemption.

Furthermore, Barnardine's refusal to be executed becomes a pivotal plot point in the play. When Angelo orders Claudio's execution, Claudio's sister Isabella pleads with Angelo to spare her brother's life. In a desperate attempt to save Claudio, Isabella proposes a deal to Angelo: she will sleep with him in exchange for her brother's freedom. However, when the time comes for the plan to be executed, Barnardine is mistakenly beheaded instead of Claudio.

This turn of events adds a layer of irony to the play, further examining the themes of justice, mercy, and the abuse of power. Barnardine's refusal to be executed becomes a metaphor for the characters' struggle to confront their own sins and find redemption.

Although Barnardine's role in Measure for Measure is relatively small, his character serves as a catalyst for the play's exploration of moral dilemmas, justice, and the complexities of human nature.